No matter what size business you’re running, if you’ve been in the game any length of time at all, you’ll be painfully aware of just how difficult it is to win a customer. Given the amount of time, effort, and cold hard cash that goes into customer acquisition, it’s simply astonishing how many businesses consider their job done at that stage and fail to truly build a relationship with their customers over time.
The key to reliable long-term profits and growth in the vast majority of enterprises is repeat business. And the key to winning that repeat business is staying as close to your customer base as humanly possible. Get it right, and you’ll have a rock-solid foundation of predictable revenue to build your dreams around. Get it wrong, and you’re doomed to chasing that first sale over and and over again.
In this piece, we’ll look at 5 steps to keep your customers close and create a profitable long-term relationship with them. Let’s start with an obvious but critical point that a shocking number of firms get wrong.
- Make It Incredibly Easy To Contact You
In a perfect world, this wouldn’t even need mentioning. A quick look around both the online and offline arenas, however, shows that the need to stress this point is as pressing as ever. The path between something, anything, popping into your customers’ heads and them being able to contact you about it should be as smooth and obvious as possible.
How does this manifest itself in the real world? Let’s take your website for starters. Your contact details should be prominently listed on every page of your site. Don’t make your customers jump through hoops to find out how to get in touch. And don’t try and force them through systems that are designed with your interests rather than theirs in mind.
The same general point applies to any type of outgoing correspondence, printed or virtual. Your contact details should be clearly listed on all of these, and the messaging should also include a straightforward call-to-action specifically asking people to get in touch with any questions.
These are simple things to get right, but you’ll find yourself in a surprisingly small group of companies if you actually implement them.
- Make the Most of Social Media
Contrary to what many companies seem to believe, your social channels aren’t simply there to fire a barrage of automated marketing offers at people. Rather than endlessly spamming your audience, make sure you’re making the effort to actively engage with real customers via these channels.
This is an approach that will take more real-world effort than simply queuing up a series of posts or tweets to go out on a schedule, but it’s more than worth putting the time in. By connecting on a human level via your social channels, you’re building goodwill, trust, and authority over time.
- Don’t Ignore Email
We can take this point two ways. Let’s start with the obvious one – any type of incoming communication via email from customers should be handled quickly. There’s nothing more frustrating from a customer point of view than taking the time to craft a carefully worded email and then seeing it effectively disappear into a void. Make it a habit to acknowledge receipt of email and clearly indicate timelines and next steps as quickly as possible.
The second way in which email shouldn’t be ignored is in its almost unique ability to help build relationships with customers over time. Start thinking in terms of customer lifecycle emails that you can be sending out to proactively to address issues you know will arrive at different points in your relationships with customers. You can also look to create sign-up autoresponder sequences that both solve customer pain points and keep you firmly in their mind as a potential solution.
- Actively Survey Your Customers
This is one to be used with discretion. You don’t want to be bombarding your customers with constant surveys and feedback forms, but a regular peek into the minds of a select sample set will do wonders for your overall customer retention abilities. Luckily, these days there is a host of incredibly affordable and easy to use online tools out there that make carrying out these surveys a doddle.
Don’t be afraid to take some criticism on the chin here. You should be actively looking for areas where you can treat your customers better at all times, so don’t try and word survey questions to suit your own ego.
There’s nothing saying you have to restrict yourself to online outreach either. If you can create an opportunity to meet real live customers in the flesh and solicit their opinions, take it. You’ll learn an incredible amount in a short time about what makes your customers tick, and be able to build better relationships with them as a result.
- Make It A Priority Across Your Team
Our last point is perhaps the most important one. All of the areas we’ve covered mean nothing if your entire team isn’t fully on board with the importance of putting customers first and staying as close to them as possible.
This isn’t a phenomenon that happens organically across a team, it needs to be inculcated and a big part of your overall job as a business owner is to make sure that happens. Where you lead, others will follow, so make it crystal clear at all levels of your organisation that getting close to the customer is not just a fluffy general aim, it’s a concrete business priority.
Happy repeat customers are the lifeblood of firms all around the world so anything you can do to stay close to the ones you’ve already persuaded to do business with you is massively in your interests. There are many ways to do this, but getting solid on the five points we’ve covered above will go a long way towards putting you ahead of the chasing pack!